Reconstruction A Failure Essays

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Du Bois lists a number of books and writers that he believed misrepresented the Reconstruction period.

He identified those he believed were particularly racist or ill-informed works.

Du Bois noted that the southern working class, i.e.

black freedmen and poor whites, were divided after the Civil War along the lines of race, and did not unite against the white propertied class, i.e. He believed this failure enabled the white Democrats to regain control of state legislatures, pass Jim Crow laws, and disfranchise most blacks and many poor whites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Against the claim that the Radical Republicans had done a poor job at the constitutional conventions and during the first decade of Reconstruction, Du Bois observes that after the Democrats regained power in 1876, they did not change the Reconstruction constitutions for nearly a quarter century.

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When the Democrats did pass laws to impose racial segregation and Jim Crow, they maintained some support of public education, public health and welfare laws, along with the constitutional principles that benefited the citizens as a whole.Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880 is a history of the Reconstruction era by W. Du Bois' first published writing on Reconstruction was a 1901 Atlantic Monthly essay entitled "The Freedmen's Bureau," which was reprinted as the essay "Of the Dawn of Freedom" in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois argued directly against these accounts, emphasizing the role and agency of blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction and framing it as a period that held promise for a worker-ruled democracy to replace a slavery-based plantation economy.White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools.The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule." Some critics rejected Du Bois' critique of other historians writing about the freedmen's role during Reconstruction.In the section on the post-Civil War south, Du Bois argues that white workers gained a "psychological wage" from racism, which prevented a coalition between white and black workers.He used this term to distinguish it from a material wage."It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage.State by state in subsequent chapters, he notes the efforts of the elite planter class to retain control and recover property (land, in particular) lost during the war.This, in the ever-present context of violence committed by paramilitary groups, often from the former poor-white overseer class, all throughout the South.He contended there were no benefits from Reconstruction.Woodrow Wilson's Division and Reunion, 1829–1889 (1893), and James Ford Rhodes' History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 (1906) denigrated African-American contributions during that period, reflecting attitudes of white supremacy in a period when most blacks and many poor whites had been disfranchised across the South.


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